Penn State

Newest art installation at Penn State ‘investigates what movement can be’

See the installation of ‘Breaking Column III’

Philip Rickey, president of the George Rickey Foundation, and several other artists install the sculpture "Breaking Column III" in the Palmer Museum of Art plaza.
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Philip Rickey, president of the George Rickey Foundation, and several other artists install the sculpture "Breaking Column III" in the Palmer Museum of Art plaza.

It was a cold, blustery afternoon on Tuesday as Philip Rickey and team began assembling one of his father’s kinetic sculptures in the plaza in front of the Palmer Museum of Art on Penn State’s campus.

It’s the first time a George Rickey work has been presented by the Palmer, according to Director Erin Coe.

The sculpture, “Breaking Column III,” is more than 25 feet tall and made of stainless steel. On loan from a private collection, it will be on view at the Palmer through November 2019.

George Rickey, Coe said in an email, is “the foremost kinetic artist of modern times.”

“The Palmer Museum of Art is dedicated to bringing outstanding and engaging works of art to the students at Penn State, the residents of the State College community and visitors to our region,” Coe said. “Given Penn State’s reputation in the sciences and engineering, as well as the arts and humanities, it is the perfect venue to present a superlative example of Rickey’s kinetic sculpture, which combines the laws of physics with the aesthetics of abstraction. Rickey was part artist, part engineer and mechanic; therefore, his work exemplifies the integration of art and science, which is also a hallmark of the university’s strategic plan.”

Coe said the plaza is the “perfect” setting to present “Breaking Column III,” as hundreds of students pass through it each day.

The sculpture “will enhance their educational and aesthetic experience at Penn State, while mimicking the ebb and flow of activity along Curtin Road,” she said.

The sculpture moves in the wind, and some part of it will always be moving, said Philip Rickey, president of the George Rickey Foundation and also a sculptor.

“His whole body of work, over 50 years of sculpture making, investigates what movement can be,” he said.

Philip Rickey screws together a section of his father’s sculpture, Breaking Column III, as they work to install the piece in the plaza of the Palmer Museum of Art on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. The moving sculpture by George Ricky is on loan to the museum for the next year. Abby Drey

The form isn’t significant, but it’s something to animate so that you can see that it’s moving, Philip Rickey said.

According to a press release from the Palmer, George Rickey made his first mobile during his service in World War II and fully turned his attention to kinetic sculpture in the late ‘40s.

Sculptures by George Rickey are displayed in major museums including The J. Paul Getty Museum; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art; Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Tate Gallery, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Two events are already scheduled at the Palmer related to “Breaking Column III” — Third Thursday: “On the Move,” 6-9 p.m. March 21; and Family Day: “Kinetic Creations,” noon-3 p.m. April 6. Coe said museum-goers can anticipate more programs throughout the year that the sculpture is on loan.